Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Foulke Still Doesn't Get It

He did it again. While the blogosphere was buzzing about the ridiculous speech OSHA Director Ed Foulke made blaming dumb workers (who do the darnedest things!) for workplace accidents (my article here, and others here, here and here), he was down in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida making a variation of the same speech to the Association of Georgia's Textile, Carpet and Consumer Products Manufacturers.

What's the matter with him? Doesn't he read Confined Space first thing every morning? (Everyone else at OSHA does).
I wonder if I can see a show of hands here -- How many people remember a fellow on TV back in the 1960s called Art Linkletter? He had a program called "Kids Say the Darnedest Things."

When it comes to workplace safety and health, it may be just as true that "ADULTS DO the darnedest things," as you'll see from some pictures that I have brought with me.

Taking the fifth place award for dangerous workplace practices is this fellow. It's hard to believe anyone would take a chance at injuring themselves at work by standing on one foot on an unstable ladder that is leaning against power lines - but there you are!

***

All kidding aside, workplace safety and health is a serious subject, and at OSHA we take our responsibility very seriously.

Yeah, ha, ha. Actually, Ed, if you were really taking your responsibility seriously, you'd be talking about putting managers in jail if they ever allowed anything like what was portrayed in those pictures and someone got seriously injured or killed.

Instead, the rest of the speech was the usual drivel we've come to expect from this administration: A half part enforcement and 10 parts "safety pays," Alliances and compliance assistance: read our website, order our publications and we know you'll do the right thing.

Plus, safety makes people happy :)
Let me give you something else to consider: Businesses with effective safety and health programs are the most cheerful places to work. I know this quality is hard to measure, but you know it when you see it.
And safety keeps jobs at home:
Think of it this way: In today's highly competitive global economy, when employers are looking for ways to increase their profit margin, any savings is important. In many cases, even a one percent increase in profits can mean the difference between a company succeeding here or facing the unhappy choice of shipping American jobs out of the country -- just to compete.

But I'm not talking about saving one percent. The American Society of Safety Engineers estimates that workplace injuries rob employers of 25 percent of all their pretax corporate profits. That's a tremendous impact on the bottom line.
I always like the "safety pays" argument. Makes good business sense. What always bothers me though, is what if certain safety programs decrease profits a little in the short term, which is all business seem to be interested in these days? Nevermind?

Some of the rest of the speech wasn't too bad. He sincerely sympathizes with the families of workers killed on the job:
Having been involved in numerous OSHA investigations in my career[on management's side, but who's counting?], I have seen the devastating effects that a single workplace fatality has on a wide circle of people connected to one employee.
That's good, but let me give you a tip Ed. People are more likely to think you really care if you don't ridicule them first.

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